Golden Words — Schitt’s Creek, “Happy Ending”

Since great television comedy always begins with the script, this series of posts considers the individual episodes that have claimed the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series over the years.

For the first four seasons of Schitt’s Creek, the Television Academy gave no evidence they were aware of the existence of the sitcom about a wealthy family displaced to a Podunk town. A Canadian production that originally aired on CBC, the series was eligible for Emmy Awards because it also had a U.S. home of the largely unknow cable network Pop TV. The presence of a couple comedy legends — Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, who both won writing Emmys for SCTV in a year in which the sketch comedy series claimed four of five nominations in its category — didn’t rouse the interest of voters. Only when Schitt’s Creek edged toward phenomenon status, thanks largely to its post-airing availability on Netflix, that a few nominations came its way. For the penultimate season, Levy and O’Hara were each nominated for their acting and the series slipped into the Outstanding Comedy Series category. One year later, Schitt’s Creek dominated the Emmys like no series before it.

For its farewell season, Schitt’s Creek won nine Emmy Awards, including every prominent category on the comedy side. The show prevailed in all four comedy acting categories, won for its directing, writing, casting, and costuming. In one of the least suspenseful moments in the history of entertainment awards, it also took the trophy for Outstanding Comedy Series. Emmy voters essentially acknowledged they got to the show later by bestowing six years worth of accolades in a single night.

The primary beneficiary of the downpour of statuettes was Dan Levy, who co-created Schitt’s Creek with his father, the previously mentioned Eugene, and played David Rose on the series. He was one of those acting winners, shared in the series win as a producer, and wrote and co-directed the series finale that earned Emmys in those respective categories. Although that closing episode, titled “Happy Ending,” doesn’t stand as the sharpest, funniest, or most compelling episode of Schitt’s Creek, either over the course of the series or its last season (the other Schitt’s Creek episode that earned a nomination that year, “The Presidential Suite,” might actually be a little stronger), it’s nicely representative of what pushed the series into the echelon of truly beloved sitcoms. In particular, the wedding of David and Patrick (Noah Reid) is depicted with warmth and overwhelming kindness.

Maybe the main achievement of “Happy Ending” is the way it subtly demonstrates that the consensus billing that set the SCTV veterans as leads and the younger actors playing their children (Dan Levy and Annie Murphy) as supporting performers was inaccurate in a proper interpretation of the narrative. The show relied on the Green Acres trope of spoiled socialites in a rural setting, and the expected conclusion of everyone succumbing to small-town charms didn’t play out. The patriarch and matriarch played by Levy and O’Hara, respectively, were as eager to flee the town of Schitt’s Creek as they were in the pilot. It was their children who had grown, changed in the way expected of protagonists. Even if Murphy’s Alexis planned to her own return to metropolitan life — while David stayed behind in the town where he’d built a new, sturdy life — she had undoubtedly transformed as a person, imbued with a certainty and maturity that was entirely absent at the start of the series. The title of the episode promised closure. For David and Alexis. the installment actually bestowed new beginnings. In that gesture resided the generosity that defined the series.

Other posts in this series can be found at the “Golden Words” tag.

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